Posts Tagged ‘sharks’

Palau’s plans to ban commercial fishing

…could set precedent for tuna industry

The Pacific nation wants to conserve fish for its economy and marine reserves. How will this impact the fishing industry?

Click to expand this infograph showing key data on Palau and how the nation plans to create one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries. Photograph: Food and Environment Reporting Network and Switchyard Media

The Pacific island-nation of Palau is close to kicking all commercial fishing vessels out of its tropical waters. The move will single-handedly section off more than 230,000 sq miles of ocean, an area slightly smaller than France, to create one of the world’s largest marine reserves. The sanctuary, which Palauan President Thomas Remengesau Jr announced at the United Nations last month, would also sit inside the world’s last healthy stand of lucrative, tasty tuna.

Giving fishing vessels the boot is bold for any nation, but perhaps more so for Palau, a smattering of 300 islands east of the Philippines. Tuna, America’s favorite finned fish, is a regional boon worth an estimated $5.5bn. Commercial fishing, largely by boats from Japan and Taiwan, represents $5m annually – or 3.3% of GDP – to Palau. But still, the island state says it will allow existing fishing licenses to expire.

The move, hailed by ocean conservationists, sets a worrying precedent for the tuna industry. While the commercial catch inside Palau is minimal, captains covet the freedom to chase warm-blooded, migratory tuna across jurisdictions. If Palau goes through with the plan, it will mark the first time a nation has completely banned fishing vessels from its entire Exclusive Economic Zone.

“Our concern is not so much a practical one as it is a concern with the precedent of closing areas with no scientific basis for it,” says Brian Hallman, executive director of the American Tunaboat Association.

“The migratory range of tunas is vast, covering the waters of many countries and the high seas. So the only way to conserve stocks is by international treaty arrangements and this is already being done.”

Palau’s decision to act alone could be seen as a warning to the fishing industry to take the sustainability concerns of smaller, fish-rich nations more seriously and to work with these countries on more nimble and responsive solutions.

A domino effect?

Palau currently works with seven of its island neighbors to co-operatively manage a large swath of ocean. Jointly, these eight nations set fishing quotas and sustainability standards to manage nearly a third of the world’s tuna stock. Balancing both conservation and business, the alliance became the first group of countries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council for managing its tuna grounds sustainably.

But this arrangement hinges on allowing more-sustainable fishing inside member waters. If Palau bans commercial fishing, it’s unclear how this will impact the broader regional effort.

“There’s nothing in these agreements that require we allow fishing in our waters,” Remengesau says in a telephone interview. “It’s all about the regional area. Our conservation efforts would ensure that the stocks are healthy and that they gain in economic value as they move out of our territorial waters into other waters.”

When it comes down to it though, banning commercial boats simply appears to be in Palau’s interests.

Even though the bulk of commercial fishing in the region focuses on tuna, sharks are frequently hauled in as bycatch. Yanking sharks out of the sea directly hits Palau’s biggest moneymaker: the $85m dive tourism industry.

More valuable alive than dead. Photograph: Brian J Skerry/Getty Images/National Geographic

“We feel that a live tuna or shark is worth a thousand times more than a dead fish,” Remengesau says.

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Nature Ramble

Off the coast of Sergipe in Brazil they have been testing new circular hooks designed to combat the inadvertent catching of marine turtles.

The hooks are a welcome success, in more ways than one; fishermen have hauled in a total of fifteen new species of marine life, hither to unknown.

Local fishermen with forty years fishing behind them have never seen the likes before.

Now the fish are in the Oceanário de Aracaju for study.

A species of shark

A species of shark



A species of eel

A species of crustation

A species of crustacean

All photos are caps of the Globo video clip

Nature Ramble

Nature never seems unable to provide more surprises.

This week we look at a new species of shark discovered in Indonesia.


‘Walking shark’ discovered in Indonesia

Previously unknown fish, Hemiscyllium halmahera, uses its fins to move along the sea bed in search of crustaceans

Hemiscyllium halmahera, a newly discovered species of ‘walking shark’.

A species of shark that uses its fins to “walk” along the bottom of the ocean floor has been discovered off the coast of Indonesia. The shark, Hemiscyllium halmahera, uses its fins to wiggle along the seabed and forage for small fish and crustaceans, scientists from Conservation International said on Friday.

The shark, which has wide horizontal stripes, grows to a maximum length of just 30in and is harmless to humans.

It was found off the remote eastern island of Halmahera, one of the Maluku islands.

The conservation group said it hoped the discovery would once again demonstrate that most sharks pose no threat to humans.

The find also highlights the extraordinary marine diversity in Indonesia whose chain of islands is home to at least 218 species of sharks and rays, and the country’s recent efforts to protect species under threat of extinction, Conservation International said.


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Nature Ramble

This week not so much of a ramble again. We’re going diving.

Everybody knows about sharks, big fearsome things with lots of teeth and a bad attitude.

Our idea of sharks is pretty much this…

A bad attitude with teeth

A bad attitude with teeth

But most people don’t know that there are many types of shark, here’s a few that are not so well known.

Angel Sharks (Squatina squatina)

Angel Sharks (Squatina squatina)

Horn Shark (Heterodontus francisci)

Horn Shark (Heterodontus francisci)

Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran)

Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran)

Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus)

Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus)

Sawshark pristiophorus japonicus-opencago

Sawshark (Pristiophorus japonicus-opencago)

Wobbegong or Carpet Sharks (Orectolobidae)

Wobbegong or Carpet Sharks (Orectolobidae)

Goblin Shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)

Goblin Shark (Mitsukurina owstoni)

Frilled Shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus)

Frilled Shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus)

Photo credits and information can be found on: Earth Rangers, Wildfire Blog

Photo credits of the Angel Shark from: Best on Top 10

Monday Moaning

Voters on shark conservation facing ‘undue pressure’

Several species of Hammerheads are among those under threat

Delegates at a conservation meeting in Thailand are expected to vote on proposals to extend protection to three vulnerable species of sharks.

But campaigners say undue “pressuring” of developing countries could swing Monday’s vote against the ban.

China and Japan are said to be using their trade connections to unfairly influence the outcome.

Japan denies exercising any unfair pressure, saying every delegation should vote based on their own beliefs.

An estimated 100 million sharks are killed by commercial fishing every year, researchers have recently reported.

They blame a huge appetite for shark-fin soup in China and Hong Kong for stimulating the trade.

The proposals at the Cites conservation meeting in Bangkok suggest protecting some of the most endangered species, who are highly valued for their fins.

These include the Oceanic whitetip, several species of Hammerheads and the Porbeagle shark as well as two types of manta ray which are hunted for their gill plates. These are used in some Chinese traditional medicines.

Blocking tactics

The amendments would not ban the fishing of these species, but would ensure that catches are regulated – meaning that importers and exporters would require permits.

But with support closely divided between those in favour of extending protection and those who want to keep the status quo, some campaigners claim that unfair and underhanded tactics are being used to block the proposal.

“There’s been a lot of shenanigans and pressuring of developing countries,” Dr Susan Lieberman, director of international policy at the Pew Oceanic trust told BBC News at the meeting.

“It is going to be very close,” Dr Lieberman added.

Dr Lieberman said she believed that China and Japan were responsible for placing undue pressure on nations that do not have any great interest in the shark trade, especially countries in Africa and the Middle East.

She says they are concerned that a successful shark vote could set a precedent for regulating other fish species.

“Japan is not a big player in the shark trade but it is a philosophical issue. They don’t want Cites to deal with fisheries. They just want it off the table. For China, they just don’t want to implement this. ”

A large number of countries fish for shark but most trade goes through Hong Kong

One delegate who wished to remain anonymous told BBC News that pressure from China and Japan was the “usual procedure” at these meetings.

The BBC has seen an anonymous leaflet designed to remind delegates that regulating the trade in small number of threatened shark species would be damaging.

“The livelihoods of fishermen would decline,” it says. “No conservation benefits would accrue.”

It is expected that a secret ballot will be called on the shark proposal, according to Dr Colman O’Criodain, who is attending this meeting on behalf of WWF international.

Arm twisting

He also feels that China and Japan are bringing undue pressure on developing countries in particular.

“They certainly seem to be twisting arms from the feedback we are getting. They’re saying people have approached them,” he said.

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Fine let China use the fish from their own waters. Once they’re extinct there, don’t come looking in our waters.

Ban all exports of shark products to China.

China has to wake up and smell the coffee that their flagrant practices because it’s their traditional ‘medicine’ (which is crap anyway, just superstition) are damaging the planet for the rest of us.

Japan needs to pull its head in too. They are just adding fuel to the fire to protect their own disreputable whaling practices.

Any practice that uses only a part of an animal and discards the rest must be banned.

The world needs to seriously take a stance, you catch it, you use it… all.


The sharks win!

‘Historic’ day for shark protection

The oceanic whitetip is found in tropical and warm temperate seas

Three types of critically endangered but commercially valuable shark have been given added protection at the Cites meeting in Bangkok.

The body, which regulates trade in flora and fauna, voted by a two-thirds majority to upgrade the sharks’ status.

Campaigners hailed the move as historic and said the vote represented a major breakthrough for marine conservation.

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